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Federal appeals court grants damages to injured seaman

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which hears federal cases out of states including Louisiana, recently issued a ruling regarding damages available to employees who are injured at sea.

The employee in this case suffered a back injury while working for a maritime employer. He collected damages for maintenance and care from his employer but they later discovered that he had also had earlier back problems that he failed to report on a health history questionnaire.

When they discovered this, the man's employer tried to collect the maintenance and cure that they had provided him as restitution for his omission about his health history.

In the field of maritime employment law, employers at sea are obligated to provide their employees with "maintenance and cure." This sets a high standard for maritime employers to make sure their employees are taken care of.

In this case, the federal judge called a "maritime employer's obligation to pay an injured seaman maintenance and cure is an essential part of the employment relationship." They also found there was no precedent to give the employer restitution for its earlier defense.

"Maintenance" is the cost of maintaining a seaman's life on land to the same extent it would be maintained by an employer at sea. This could include room and board, medical care, food and other living expenses. "Cure" refers to the medical expenses associated with an injury, including doctor visits, rehabilitative care, time spent at a hospital and the costs of medication.

Source: The Louisiana Record, "Fifth Circuit reverses ruling for Transocean in favor of injured employee," Elizabeth Young, March 19, 2013

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